'A Pleasure to Read'My compliments to Stanford Erickson. His articles, "The U.S.'s First Black President" (JofC Sept. 22) and "Breaking the Eleventh Commandment" (JofC Sept. 15) are superb. A real pleasure to read. Please continue these great commentaries.
Ottone Carchia Export Manager Philips Electronic Instruments.
Stand on Speed Limit
Should Be Reversed
I am moved to write in response to your editorial, "The 55 MPH Limit" (JofC Sept. 18).
To say that drivers who drive 70 when the limit is 55 would drive 85 when the limit is 70 is to assume that drivers calculatedly push their vehicles to a certain number of miles per hour higher than the speed limit. Does it not seem more reasonable to assume that most drivers know how fast they can safely drive, and drive at that speed? Most drivers don't want to die behind the wheel, or kill someone while driving. So, therefore, the fact that drivers consistently exceed the limit must tell you that they don't believe it when they are told that driving 55 saves lives. Which leads to my second point: I don't believe it, either.
You say that national traffic fatalities fell by 15.3 percent the first year the 55 mph limit was imposed. However, what you don't say is that much of this decrease was on secondary roads which never had 65 or 70 mph speed limits to begin with.
One thing that has been proven about human behavior is that we humans tend to be more efficient when we are exposed to novelty. I refer to the classic sociological study, in which workers' productivity was seen to improve when their morning break was extended by five minutes. However, productivity soon declined to normal levels, so the break was shortened to its original duration. The result: Productivity increased again. Brightening the lights, dimming the lights, turning background music up, turning it down, all led to temporary increases in productivity, followed by gradual returns to original levels. The comparison with the 55 mph speed limit is obvious, and, I think, inescapable.
Insofar as fuel savings are concerned, where have you been? Saving fuel is a worthwhile idea. And we should all save as much as we can. But it is not a national priority anymore, or should it be. There's a worldwide oil glut on, and fuel is plentiful and cheap.
This much is clear - if everybody drove no faster than 10 mph. there would be virtually no fatal car accidents. Cars would last practically forever, and fuel would be saved by the gigaton. If everybody were required to drive no slower than 120 mph, there would be a great many accidents and fuel would be unnecessarily wasted.
The national 55 mph limit is a creation of a small number of senators and representatives who act as if they believe that greatness is measured by the extent to which one's actions can be felt in the daily life of the general public. Please reverse your stand and call for the abolition of the national 55 mph limit, and the return of the power to legislative speed limits to the states, where it belongs.
Paul T. Kilduff Baltimore, Md.
On Refinery Articles
Your three articles concerning a new company's proposal for a refinery in Valdez, Alaska (JofC Sept. 5) raise issues of accuracy and fairness that I would like to address.
First, the caption for your cover photo on page one identifies the cargo dock as having been built "primarily to handle oil exports from a new refinery," obviously referring to Charter Oil's 99 percent interest in the Alpetco company, a group that planned but ultimately failed to build a refinery in Valdez in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Nothing could be further
from the truth.
The original cargo dock was built to handle over 800 miles of heavy pipe shipped to Valdez to construct the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, as well as associated supplies required for that project. Furthermore, Alpetco's plans called for a product loading dock several miles away on the other side of the port, because the cargo dock could not handle the draft of a handy-size product tanker.
Secondly, as I understand the plans of Alaska Pacific Refining Co. described in the three articles, they would propose to bring oil to a site adjacent to the Valdez Glacier (which floods annually) and which would require the construction of a pipeline across the Lowe River. This plan, like Alpetco's, would require the company to prepare and file for public comment an Environmental Impact Statement (an "EIS") under the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act. The Act has notice and timing requirements that make the company's proposed date to start construction, quoted in the Journal, highly optimistic. An EIS of the magnitude suggested by the company's proposal would ordinarily consume from 12 to 18 months.
Readers of the Journal include sophisticated shipowners, tanker operators and engineers. I was a bit surprised that none of the articles discussed the manner in which the proposed project would provide for ballast water treatment (required in Alaska), or how the company could substantiate its claims to build a $750 million grass-roots refinery so quickly in a city that gets 20 feet of snow a year, and has an extremely short construction season.
Thatcher A. Stone (Mr. Stone is an attorney associated with Kramer, Levin, Nessen, Kamin and Frankel in New York City.)
A member of my staff has called to my attention the article headlined ''Death in the Afternoon, A Dead Performance" by James Nolan, JofC, Aug. 14.
The article is entertaining and well-written. Unfortunately, its depiction of me as a no-show in the fourth paragraph is quite untrue. I realize Mr. Nolan based his story on the printed program.
I had been scheduled to speak, it is true. But, alas, I was compelled to cancel my appearance because of pressing business here in Austin - things like a special legislative session and matters related to the liability crisis. This was no last-minute cancellation. I notified the Bar on April 30th I could not attend.
So, my non-appearance should have been no surprise to the sponsors of the session on "The Demise of Property/Casualty Insurance Coverage." My name should not have been on the program.
Lyndon L. Olson Jr. Chairman Texas State Board of Insurance Austin